Archive for May, 2012

“Where will I find my resting place?”

From the long-term perspective of living in place over generations, most Americans are homeless.

I’ve never had a home, in all relevant respects that comprehensively was a safe haven.

My parents were certainly kind. Growing up, I had wonderful childhood and young adultĀ  friends and neighbors, but we lived in a new suburban neighborhood, in which all of the families were rising economically (or not) and moving frequently. There were noone’s grandparents, or brothers and sisters, in the same neighborhood.

My neighborhood was a largely upper middle class Jewish ghetto, outside of New York City. There were very few traditionally practicing Jews, almost all were associated with the liberal diaspora originated modern Jewish denominations, if that. Very very few kept kosher. Very very few kept shabbos.

My grandparents on my mother’s side did. We spent a lot of time at there home. My mother’s brother lived in the same community, so my cousins and I were close. Their cousins on the other side were also close, and that family was home (when young).

The place (suburban New York) though was not home in the deep sense. Not enough trust, not enough permanence, roots, future.

Kids went to college, and almost 100% formed other lives away, most driven by where they worked, or some project that they got involved with, or some relationship that they cared about. Coming home was always an irony, internally arguing over whether to use the word “home” or not. Is this my home, or their’s (my parents). And, is it even their home (as in permanence)?

My parents sold their home in 1992. They had lived there 36 years, a long time, and not a long time at all. My father’s business suffered a downturn, and he found the property tax obligation on their highly appreciated valued house a burden, and not sufficient appeal (community) to stay.

They moved to Florida. My mother’s brother also moved to the same area, and that then served as a surrogate faux-home as well. Since then, my father died, my mother’s brother died, my mother had an illness, and we’ve moved her close to my family.

In traditional in place communities, where one’s family is buried is home. My grandparents on my father’s side are buried in Queens in a mass cemetery. My grandparents on my mother’s side are buried in Worcester, in what would be community if multiple generations stayed there. My father is buried in South Florida, where only my aunt lives currently. My mother will be buried in South Florida next to my father, but after the funeral, I probably won’t ever see the grave. I doubt highly that I will move to South Florida.

Is my home in small-town Western Massachusetts home? Its mine. I choose to be here. But, if I had to move (and I don’t mean a pogrom), I would quickly. I have friends here that I definitely care about a great deal, but they are not permanent as a family of families for generations is.

I wonder if I may perhaps be the first generation of the establishment of a new homeplace for my children and their families, but I doubt it.

My homelessness is American common homelessness. We are a nation of immigrants and of migrants (ourselves), and also a nation of alienated families. Maybe its all of the modern world, in which indigenous life is not readily possible, sufficient to cover the fixed costs of living.

We live in primarily a commercial world, not a community world. We go to where our career takes us. The economies in most locales outside of big cities, aren’t sufficiently diverse to allow for children with different interests to all make a living. They move.

We don’t form home. We don’t dig in the earth. Our families don’t stay in a locale very long.

Definitely some do. And among them, some are committed to place and continue to craft, farm, mentor. And some are just eager to cash out, selling their parents’ farms for tract house plots.


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